Late coach is called inspiration to many
On his first day at Algonquin Regional High in 1986, Qabaniso Lupafya, a 17-year-old exchange student from Zimbabwe, was late for class.
While racing down the corridor, Lupafya, who goes by his middle name, Frank, caught the eye of football and track coach Frank Kronoff.
“He said, ‘Boy, can you run,’ ’’ recalled Lupafya, now a Worcester businessman, “and so I became a dash man in track and a running back and outside linebacker in football, which I had never played before.
“Coach always stressed silent determination. He was an icon and a great human being, and I feel my life was enriched when our paths crossed.’’
Kronoff, who died July 12 at the age of 87, was a multisport athlete at Worcester Classical High School, and as a junior at Holy Cross was a two-way starter on the Crusaders football team that lost a heartbreaker to the University of Miami in the 1946 Orange Bowl.
He had a tryout with the NFL’s New York Giants, and landed his first football coaching job as an assistant at Clinton High in 1951. He went on to coach undefeated football teams at Webster’s Bartlett High School in 1955 — his first year there as coach — and Marlborough High in 1963. The 1955 Bartlett team has been inducted in the school’s Hall of Fame.
Two of Kronoff’s teams at Algonquin, in 1985 and 1987, were Central Mass. Division 1 Super Bowl runners-up.
A member of the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame and an inaugural inductee to the Algonquin Hall of Fame, Kronoff had a career record of 119 wins, 66 losses, and 11 ties.
He taught history at Marlborough High, and was a vice principal at Algonquin, where he later served as a substitute teacher until the age of 84.
He was also a superb golfer who worked as a ranger at the Juniper Hill course in Northborough past the age of 80.
“Frank was a gentleman, not a yeller or a screamer, but he told you what he expected of you, he didn’t beat around the bush, and he was a true leader,’’ said former major league pitcher Ken Reynolds, a senior captain on Marlborough’s Central Mass. Class C championship team in 1963.
Reynolds, a longtime teacher and coach at Marlborough High, said Kronoff would always ask how he was doing in other sports and in the classroom.
Bill Zompetti, now a coach at Marian High in Framingham, was playing for Marlborough High in the late 1960s when he was called for a clipping penalty and thought he’d feel the coach’s wrath.
“But Mr. Kronoff told me instead that he knew I was trying to do the right thing and that I could learn from it. He never berated his players in front of the team, and he always said that this is not only a team, but your family away from your own family. I’ve tried to be that kind of coach throughout the years because of him.’’
Jim Cooley was a junior running back and safety on the 1993 Algonquin squad when he was told by Kronoff that for the next season he would be the team’s quarterback — a position unfamiliar to Cooley.
“He taught me the footwork, the execution, everything,’’ said Cooley, who directed the 1994 team to a 6-4 record to cap off Kronoff’s final season. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think something like that could happen, and it meant a lot to me.
“I would not have the life I have today if not for Coach, and I try to pass on his life’s lessons to my own children.’’
Kronoff, who resided in Northborough for most of his life, took pride in his Orange Bowl appearance, although the Crusaders lost in the final seconds, 13-6, to heavily favored Miami, on an 89-yard interception return.
“He often talked about chasing the Miami player down the sideline but not quite getting to him,’’ according to Kronoff’s daughter, Janet Hamilton, and her husband, Ed, of Shrewsbury. He was living with them at the time of his death.
“He had an enthusiastic laugh and he liked to be around people who laughed with him,’’ his daughter said. “He always wanted his teams to present themselves with class, and he stayed in teaching because he said it kept him young.’’
That laugh was evident the time that Lupafya, who had played rugby in Zimbabwe, was being taught the linebacker position by Kronoff.
“I had his blessing to go after the quarterback, but didn’t realize I was supposed to do pass coverage, and coach said firmly, ‘Frankie, you have to cover the flat,’ ’’ Lupafya recalled. “I said, ‘Coach, the whole field is flat; there is only so much I can do.’
“He laughed hysterically and asked me to repeat what I said to the other coaches.’’
Lupafya’s life changed when he attended Algonquin through a Rotary Club exchange program. At his high school graduation ceremony, the guest speaker heard his story and ended up sponsoring him at Worcester State College.
“It all started the day I saw Coach. He took an interest in me as a whole person, as he did for so many others,’’ said Lupafya, “and he was one of the most powerful motivators I ever met. To this day, when I see former teammates from Algonquin, they repeat Coach’s line from practice, ‘Frankie, bull your neck,’ ’’ a reminder to brace himself before a hit, “and all those wonderful memories return.’’
Here and there
Changes at Newbury College in Brookline this summer include the hiring of a new director of athletics, Jonathan Harper, the son of former Bridgewater State University AD John Harper ; head softball coach Brook Capello has been promoted to assistant AD and senior women’s administrator; Danny Borrero is the new head athletic trainer; and Joe Kayser is now head women’s soccer coach. . . . Hockomock League all-star Allie Piergustavo, a rising senior at Milford High School, has verbally committed to attend St. Bonaventure University on a softball scholarship. Her dad, Rich, is Milford High’s athletic director.Marvin Pave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.